A Monumental Loss of Tradition

(via https://www.flickr.com/photos/brendan2010/)

Norwegian, Swiss, Dutch, Australian and Irish -the nationalities of the five winners of the 2014 monument classics were unusually diverse. It was only the fifth time that all five races were won by riders from different countries. Notably the winners didn’t include any Belgians, French, Italians or Spaniards. This is not quite a first in cycling history, but it almost is.

Labelled ‘La Doyenne’ for good reason, the first ever monument classic that took place was Liége-Bastogne-Liége in 1892. Only one year has passed since then where none of the five took place, 1895. The following year after that barren Spring, Paris-Roubaix arrived, soon followed thereafter by the Tour of Lombardy and then Milan San Remo. In 1913, the Tour of Flanders completed what we now hold dear as the set of five biggest one day races and not a year has passed since then, despite the two World Wars, where at least one of them hasn’t taken place.

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The Million Dollar Nonsense

Alpe d'Huez

“If Quintana, Froome, Nibali and Contador all agree to ride all three Grand Tours, I’ll get Tinkoff Bank to put up €1 million. They can have €250,000 each as an extra incentive. I think it’s a good idea”

The words of Oleg Tinkov speaking recently to Cycling News as he once more offers to throw money at the sport of cycling for his own amusement.

Trying to win all three Grand Tours in the same year is seemingly impossible, but Tinkov seems to think that every rider has their price. With that notion, he might be right, €250,000 is a lot of money. Perhaps not worth as much to these multi-million euro contracted riders than to you or I, but a lot of money nonetheless.

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The Changing Face of Cycling

Imagine you’re the manager of a cycling team and you’re looking for a particular type of rider. But instead of finding one guy that fits the job description, you find several, all with very similar physical attributes and identical salary demands – how do you decide which one to sign? The answer might be, whichever one you’re able to remember the most.

Listening to Daniel Friebe’s recent interview with Dan Craven on The Cycling Podcast would certainly lend credence to this assertion. Craven, who has just completed the Vuelta a Espana, his first ever Grand Tour, is one of the most remember-able riders in the peloton due to the considerable facial hair that he’s been cultivating for the last few years. In a sport where beards and moustaches are not all that common, Craven stands out immediately, a fact not lost on the Namibian rider when he spoke to Friebe about how he ended up signing for Team Europcar:

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Morbid Curiosity and the Redemption of Chris Froome

cycling-los-lagos

The This Week in Cycling History podcast began as exactly that. I attempted to find three stories for each show, from any year in cycling’s past, but the stories needed to have taken place in the week of the year in which we were currently in. Simple enough. But one winter of research was enough to turn me away from this idea. It was just too bloody hard to find stuff that happened in cycling over the winter months! There’s only so much track cycling a guy can wade through.

These days, thankfully, the stories are plucked from any time throughout the year although they tend to maintain some kind of relevance to whatever race is currently going on. But that one winter of desperate searches for something, anything, that happened, due to the complete lack of racing, inadvertently led me to writing about rather a lot of rider deaths.

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Punch-ups, bike changes and a stolen Tour of Flanders

Farrapona

The gloves were off on Stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana. Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovny took issue with each other and had a boxing match while on the bike. Meanwhile, according to Philip Deignan’s daily diary in the Irish Independent, Joaquim Rodriguez bust his lip open with a punch during the stage.

While Rodriguez got away with his pugilistic misdemeanor, Brambilla and Rovny were not so fortunate, caught as they were in plain sight of a race commissaire, who took the unsual step of disqualifying them while the stage was still in progress. Unusual, but not unprecedented. For there has been a similar incident in cycling before, although one with an altogether more bizarre outcome.

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2014 Tour de France for stats geeks

Astana Tour

Vincenzo Nibali

1974 – The last time a rider won four road stages on his way to overall victory. This year, Nibali won four, but in 1974 Eddy Merckx actually won six. The Belgian also managed four road stage wins throughout his Tour victory in 1970. The only other riders who have achieved this feat since World War II are Luis Ocana (1973), Fausto Coppi (1952) and Gino Bartali (1948).

6 – The number of riders who have now won all three of the Grand Tours: Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Nibali joins the elite group containing Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.

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